Australia Day Nominees

Published on 23 January 2023


The Upper Hunter Shire is fortunate to have many outstanding individuals and community groups who are dedicated to making the Upper Hunter Shire a better place. This year's Australia Day nominees are a testament to that, as their achievements are truly remarkable. From volunteer work to professional accomplishments, these individuals have made a significant impact in the area and serve as inspirations to us all. We are lucky to have them in our community and their contributions should be celebrated and recognized.

Check out some of their stories below. 


Andrew Wallings

Over the past 9 years Andrew supported by his family and staff. including contractors has tirelessly transformed Collaroy into an environmentally sustainable, productive, profitable and enviable rural holding from what was once neglected, often frowned upon and unloved land. 

Brooklyn Blackadder

Brooklyn has continually excelled in her league tag and rugby league this year. She represented Merriwa Magpies in the league tag for both the under 16s and ladies tag. Receiving 2022 Player’s Player for u16s, plus most consistent, plus rookie of the year for the ladies adult comp. 

Brooklyn was also selected to represent the greater Northern Tigers u17s Rugby League team to play many other teams from all lover NSW, VIC and ACT. Most impressive of all, however, Brooklyn was selected to play for her NSW combined high school under 16s rugby league team.

Courtney Gillis

Courtney Gillis is a 29-year-old woman who has dedicated herself to volunteering for two local organizations in her community, the Merriwa Pony Club and the Merriwa Tennis Club. She has worked for the Pony Club for the past 3 years and currently holds the position of president at the Tennis Club. Courtney has also raised money for the McGrath Foundation through the Tennis Club's "pink up the town" event. In addition to her volunteer work, Courtney is also employed at a local school. She is known for being willing to help out wherever needed and expects no payment in return.

Jorji Taaffe

Jorji is a natural leader who has been involved in numerous extracurricular activities including athletics, pony club, and cattle shows. She has also dedicated her time to volunteering and helping with community events. In 2022, she completed her high school studies in the top 10 academic achievers and received the Bengalla Undergraduate Scholarship for university. She has worked as a pharmacy assistant and has an interest in pursuing a career in medicine.

Harlem Lewis

Harlem is a talented athlete across a number of sports at school and in the community. Over the past two years he has represented Scone Public School in rugby league, basketball, cross country and athletics. A highlight was being a member of the Scone Public School Rugby League team that won the Classic Shield State title. Harlem was awarded the Phil Nash inaugural Best and Fairest medal for his strong performance.

Andrew and Peta Luke

Andrew and Peta Luke have a long history of volunteering with the local emergency services in Merriwa. Andrew has worked as a Superintendent for the Rural Fire Service, a paramedic, and is currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA). Peta has served as a Commander for the State Emergency Service, Brigade Captain for the RFS, Deputy Captain for the VRA, and a registered rescue operator. Both Andrew and Peta have been nominated for the State's Rotary Emergency Services Awards for their dedication to the community. They have also worked for nine years to secure funding for a new emergency services and rescue centre, which will be completed in 2023.

Rob Tindall

Rob Tindall has been an active member of the Merriwa Show Committee for 12 years and has served as president multiple times. He has also been the Chairman of the Merriwa Showground User Committee for over 10 years, overseeing various improvements and renovations at the showground. Rob has coordinated the "Farm Safety Day" event for 8 years and has helped set up the Merriwa Helping Hands program. He has also been elected as Chairman of The Merriwa Festival Of The Fleeces and serves on the Merriwa Community Advisory Committee. Rob has received the Paul Harris Fellow award from The Rotary Foundation Of Rotary International in appreciation of his contributions to better understanding and friendly relations among people worldwide.

Roy Lawler

Roy Lawler, a 15-year-old equine enthusiast, has excelled in various disciplines and has a passion for polocrosse. He has represented his team at the Australian Polocrosse National Championships and the NSW Pony Club State Sporting and Campdrafting Championships, where he placed in multiple events and made several finals. He has also had success at pony club events, including winning Champion Senior Boy Rider and Highest Scoring Overall Senior Sporter. Roy has achieved all of these accomplishments on home-bred horses that he trains himself, demonstrating his dedication to the sport.

Steve Gowlland

Nominated for his ongoing efforts through the Merriwa Progress Association. He has been a tireless advocate for the Merriwa community, advocating for Return and Earn machines as well as the ongoing health challenges in the Merriwa community, including defibrillator access and on-call doctors for the hospital.

John Scalley

John Scalley is a retired teacher who has been active in various community groups in Scone and the Upper Hunter region. He has served on the Parish Council of St. Luke's Anglican Church for over 30 years and has been involved in various roles, including treasurer, worship leader, and coordinator of the parish fairs and markets. He has also been the leader of the Munchkins playgroup and the pre-school kids church program at St. Luke's, as well as the maintenance officer for the church. In addition to his community work, John has also been a member of the Muswellbrook concert band and the Scone Singers.

Hamish Guiana

Hamish is a dedicated and passionate member of the Upper Hunter Youth Council, known for his respect for others and his contributions to discussions. He has supported various campaigns and initiatives through his school, and represented the Upper Hunter at the National Leadership Summit in Adelaide. In addition to his work with the Youth Council, Hamish is also involved in the community through his love of music, performing at various events and taking on directing duties. He has been offered a place at the Australian Institute of Music and is considering attending after a trip to India.

Eilish Brooker

Eilish had a very successful year in sports, representing Scone Public School at high levels in athletics and basketball. She was a member of the Scone Public School senior girls relay team that placed third in the state at the NSW All-Schools primary athletics carnival. She also played for Scone Public School in the Primary State Sporting Association basketball competition and was selected for the Hunter PSSA basketball team that competed at the NSW All-Schools championships.

Lewis Brown

Lewis had a great year of sporting achievement, representing Scone Public School and the Hunter region in touch football, rugby league, basketball, cross country, and athletics. He won numerous championships at the state and national level, and was recognized for his achievements with the Hunter Achievement Award and Hunter Sports Award. Lewis also received the Scone Public School sports award. 

Layla Collins

Layla is an accomplished athlete, representing her school and the Hunter region in a number of different sports, including athletics, touch football, rugby, and netball. She was a member of the Scone Public School senior girls relay team that placed 3rd at the State Athletics carnival, and she also played for the PSSA Hunter Rugby 7's team that became state champions. In addition, Layla represented her school and the Upper Hunter zone in touch football and was selected for the PSSA Hunter netball team. She also competed in the school cross country carnival and advanced to the regional level, competing in the zone competition in Newcastle.

Cooper Coady

Cooper Coady was successful in representing Scone Public School in swimming and athletics at the state level in 2022. He also played on the school's basketball team, which reached the grand final of the NSW PSSA knockout competition.

Lachlan Hails

Lachlan is a talented athlete who has excelled in multiple sports at Scone Grammar School and in the community. He has won numerous awards and accolades, including being selected as a captain for the CIS Rugby League and Touch Football teams and winning the National Championship in Queensland with the CIS Rugby League team. Lachlan has also given back to the community through volunteering and coaching.

Havanah Thompson

Havanah is an outstanding athlete across a number of sports.  In 2022 Havanah competed at Hunter level for swimming and represented Scone Public School at NSW All-Schools athletics carnival as a member of the senior girls relay team, achieving 3rd place in the state.

Havanah was also selected to play in the PSSA NSW Hunter Rugby 7’s team, who went on to play at NSW All-Schools and become state champions.  Havanah secured a place in the PSSA Hunter netball team who competed against teams from other regions around the state.

Daniel Hoogerwerf

Daniel Hoogerwerf is a long-serving member of the Aberdeen Rugby League Football Club who has played over 200 first grade matches for the Tigers and has been the first grade coach for five seasons. He has won premierships with the team in 2010 and 2017, and has represented the Greater Northern Tigers in the Country Rugby League Championships for the past two seasons. Daniel is also a life member of the club and has been on the club's committee for many years, in addition to volunteering at the Aberdeen Junior Rugby League Club and Aberdeen Public School. He is known as an excellent role model and mentor for aspiring players and always represents his community well.

Robyn Selman

Robyn has been a dedicated volunteer at Aberdeen Public School for 40 years, assisting in the classroom, canteen, and library. She also volunteered at Aberdeen Little Athletics Club for 10 years, helping in the canteen and writing out results. Robyn plans to move to Sydney soon, but the community is grateful for her many hours of volunteering. 

Ruby Brochtrup

Ruby is an accomplished athlete who represented Scone Public School in three sports in 2022, including athletics, cross country, and basketball. She was part of the school's senior girls relay team that competed at the NSW All-Schools Athletics Championships, where they placed third in the state. Ruby also competed individually in the 100m, long jump, and high jump events at the championships. She also represented Scone Public School and Upper Hunter at the regional level in cross country, and was a member of the school's basketball team that won at Maitland/Upper Hunter level and competed against Newcastle for the Hunter title.

Tommy Dixon

Tommy Dixon is a talented rugby league player from the local area. He has represented Group 21 under 16's and the Greater Northern Tigers under 18's, and played for Aberdeen RLFC's first grade team in 2021 and 2022. He received multiple awards at the end of the 2022 season, including best back, leading try scorer, players player, player of the year, and rookie of the year. Tommy is known for his strong work ethic and dedication to the sport, and is expected to have a promising future in rugby league.

Heidi Lamb

Heidi Lamb is a 16 year old girl from Murrurundi that has been running her own business, JC Designs, for the last 18 plus months. Heidi creates and makes her own polymer clay earrings, key chains and necklaces. She also creates her own hats and clothing to sell plus custom bags and accessories. Heidi has held numerous market stalls selling her creations across many community events including Horse Week, King of the Ranges and Festival of the Fleeces. She also sells her creations via Instagram, facebook and local markets. Heidi is a member of the local market committee, Murra Country Markets, where she assists in the running of the markets, and also runs their social media. 

Macarthur Bettington

Macarthur Bettington is an exceptional young individual with a strong track record of achievements and a dedication to helping others. Some of his notable achievements include placing 3rd in a national poetry competition, having his artwork displayed in a hospital, and winning the Upper Hunter Mayor for the Day award for his proposal of a community pathway. Additionally, Macarthur has participated in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise money for childhood cancer research, consistently exceeding his goals and riding over 200 km in both 2021 and 2022. Macarthur is a motivated and inspiring role model to many

Ashleigh Loft

Ashleigh is a highly active and engaged individual, balancing school, Tag Football, a job as a lifeguard, high school football team, coaching clinic in Sydney, household responsibilities, babysitting and learning to drive. She is a very hardworking and ambitious young lady.

Dakota Turner

Dakota is an accomplished and dedicated member of the Upper Hunter Youth Council, nominated for her achievements over the past two years. She is a student at Merriwa Central School and will complete her HSC in 2023. Dakota is known for her hard work, dedication, and her ability to contribute to discussions, putting forward her own ideas, and chairing meetings both in-person and on Teams. She has consistently accepted challenges and completed tasks with maturity and to a high standard. She is also a leader outside of the Youth Council, participating in leadership camp, a real estate traineeship, school-based activities, and sports. Dakota is a dedicated and accomplished young person who is committed to making a positive impact in her community.

Josie Porter

Josie is an accomplished and hardworking young person who balances a range of academic, sporting, cultural, and community endeavors while still achieving high results in school. She achieved first place rank in several subjects, is a dedicated member of the school's student council and youth programs, and received a leadership award for her contribution to her school. She is also an avid photographer, a player and a referee in football, and maintains a part-time job and plans to pursue a degree in Marketing at University.

Tahli Gleeson

Tahli is a hardworking and dedicated School Based Trainee in the Ag Extension team, juggling school and work while achieving consistent high results. She has become a valuable member of the Sustainable Agriculture team, showing a keen willingness to learn and a strong community spirit. She has been awarded the NSW Student Apprentice/Trainee of the Year 2022 and will represent NSW at the Australian Training Awards. In addition to her professional achievements, Tahli has also received several other awards and scholarships, and has represented her school and community in various capacities such as mentoring program, steer team captain, and youth camps.

Community Groups

Elders Rural Services - Merriwa

Elders Merriwa is a long-established branch in the farming community of the district, offering a range of services including animal health recommendations, agronomy services, and water solutions such as Farmbot Tank water monitors. The team has grown from 2 employees to 4 full-time employees, and provides clients with in-branch and on-farm consultations and deliveries. Elders has experienced steady growth and is committed to supporting the community through sponsorships and charitable donations.

Merriwa Meals on Wheels

Merriwa Meals on Wheels is a voluntary organisation giving their time to deliver freshly cooked meals from the hospital to those in need, 5 days a week. Also providing a social interaction with the volunteers who have happily gave their time for the last decade.

Aberdeen Cemetery Volunteers

Daph Tanner and her group of volunteers do a fantastic job of keeping the Aberdeen cemetery beautifully presented and maintained.  They are proactive in seeking improvements and upgrades to ensure the space is welcoming and accessible to all.

As well as taking on the responsibilities of mowing and general maintenance the group have also secured funding from Bunnings and the donation of mower from Scone and Muswellbrook Funeral Services. 

Scone Public School boys Basketball team

Scone Public School’s boys basketball team competed in the NSW PSSA basketball knockout competition along with over 300 other teams. They won the Upper Hunter competition, progressing to the Hunter tournament, where they were also successful. They then progressed to play at Penrith representing the Hunter in the NSW competition.  They reached the grand final but were ultimately defeated by Minamurra Public School. They are the first Scone Public basketball team to reach this level of competition.  The team displayed great sportsmanship at training, during games and off the court.  They trained hard and were rewarded with great results.  The team consists of Jimmy Rowland, Cooper Coady, Harlem Lewis, Will Roberts, Lewis Brown, Benji Ralston, and Jarred Mitchell

Scone Public School Rugby League Team

Scone Public School’s Opens Rugby League team had a year of successful football competition.  The team, made up of eighteen 11 and 12 year boys began their winning streak in March 2022 when they were crowned champions of the Upper Hunter in Singleton.  The team went on to win the Hunter Shield from a pool of 44 teams, placing them as Hunter Rugby League champions and in the top 8 of NSW.  The boys then travelled to Port Macquarie to play in the Northern NSW semi-finals where they defeated Berkeley Vale 10-6 in extra time.  This secured them a spot in the Northern NSW grand final where they convincingly beat Warialda Public School 34-6.  As the winners of the Northern NSW competition all that remained was to play the winners of the Southern NSW competition to secure the title.  The team competed in the PSSA Classic Shield State Grand Final in Cessnock in September against Bathurst Public School.  The boys continued to play well as a team and were successful, beating Bathurst 14-6.

The last time Scone Public School won this title was in 1986.  It was a huge achievement for a team from a small country school, supported passionately by the families of the players and the community as a whole.

Scone Junior Rugby League 

Scone’s Junior Rugby League U16’s team won the Hunter Junior Rugby League Division 1 Grand Final in 2022.  They were also named Division 1 Premiers during 2021 but the season was unfortunately abandoned prior to finishing due to covid.  They are the first Scone and Group 21 JRL team to achieve a Division 1 premiership in the Newcastle competition.  

Their start together as a team wasn’t easy.  As U13’s in the Newcastle competition they won just 2 games. By U14’s they won 7 games and again the season was cut short.  2021 saw them win 10 of their 13 games but miss the opportunity of a grand final due to lockdowns.  In 2022 they won 8 of their 12 games and finally got the chance to contest a grand final, which they won.

In 2022 team member Dylan Keane was the competition’s top point scorer. The team had 12 players selected for the Group 21 representative team, 8 players selected into the Greater Northern Tigers representative team, 1 player picked in the Country U16’s representative team, 1 player awarded a position in the NSW Merit Team and 5 players selected into NRL Club Elite Pathways programs.